Drone strike kills top ISIS leader wanted for 2017 ambush of Green Berets

France announced overnight that its military had killed an ISIS leader who was wanted by the U.S. for the deadly 2017 attack on a team of Green Berets in Niger.

9/17/2021 1:48:00 PM

The drone strike occurred in late August but Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahrawi's death was confirmed this month, French and U.S. counterterrorism officials told ABC News.

France announced overnight that its military had killed an ISIS leader who was wanted by the U.S. for the deadly 2017 attack on a team of Green Berets in Niger.

AFP via Getty ImagesAdnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi (Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahraoui) is pictured in this undated and unsituated handout picture obtained on Sept. 16, 2021. He was declared killed on Sept. 16, 2021.The 2017 ambush is the subject of a four-year ABC News investigation and an ABC Documentaries film set for release on Hulu in November,"3212 UN-REDACTED: An Ambush In Africa. The Pentagon’s Betrayal."

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Macron did not explicitly say that France's anti-insurgent Task Force Barkhane in Mali had been assisted by U.S. intelligence, but sources in Paris and in Africa confirmed that was the case. American intelligence had previously assisted in numerous raids carried out by French Special Forces in 2018 that killed many of the Tongo Tongo attackers and recovered American weapons and one vehicle from the Green Beret team attacked in 2017.

The parents of U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson, who was killed in action in the 2017 attack and decorated with the Bronze Star Medal with"V" for Valor, praised the French but said the U.S. should have taken the lead on al-Sahrawi's capture or killing. headtopics.com

"We are profoundly grateful to the French Armed Forces for removing this threat to West Africa. At the same time, we are disappointed that the United States did not exert the effort to bring this individual to justice," Johnson's mother and stepfather, Debbie and Ray Gannon, told ABC News in a statement."We should have made the effort to either kill or capture the individuals who were responsible for the ambush of ODA 3212 ourselves, instead of relying on other countries."

Also killed in the 2017 attack were Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright of Lyons, Georgia, Sgt. LaDavid Johnson of Miami, and Staff Sgt. Bryan Black of Puyallup, Washington.MORE: Pentagon orders new, limited review of investigation into deadly 2017 Niger attack"More death does not make losing Bryan any better. But knowing there is one less evil man in this world brings me peace," said Michelle Black, who authored the book"Sacrifice: A Gold Star Widow's Fight For The Truth," about her husband and the Tongo Tongo gunfight."Perhaps it will prevent other families from suffering terror at his hands and for me that is enough."

Bryan Black's parents, Henry and Karen Black, also were grateful for the French operation, she said.In a ceremony for all four families of the fallen soldiers in July, LaDavid Johnson and Jeremiah Johnson, both support soldiers who were killed with the Green Beret team, were posthumously inducted into the Green Berets.

Handout/U.S. Army Special Operation via ReutersThese handout photos released Oct. 8, 2017, show, (L to R), U.S. Army Special Forces Sergeants Jeremiah Johnson, Bryan Black, Dustin Wright and La David Johnson killed in Niger, West Africa on Oct. 4, 2017. headtopics.com

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"Although nothing can take away the pain of losing our four fallen heroes, there is comfort in knowing that justice has been served," said former Green Beret Maj. Alan Van Saun, who was company commander of the ambushed detachment ODA 3212, and who appears in the ABC documentary film.

"I am grateful for our French and African partners who worked tirelessly to bring this chapter to an end, but I know there is still a lot of work to be done to bring stability to the Sahel," Van Saun told ABC News.The French Defense Ministry said that the operation was conducted between Aug. 17-22, in partnership with the Malian armed forces, against ISIS fighters in the dangerous forest area south of the village of In Delimane in Mali's Liptako region.

MORE: Video Commander calls 'integration and training with partnered forces in Niger inadequate'A senior French commander told ABC News that al-Sahrawi was"weakened after the loss of two of his logistics commanders in the same period," after the French neutralized Rhissa al-Sarhaoui and the commander known as Ikarey.

The French commander told ABC News that, based on U.S. intelligence,"we understood al-Sahrawi left Menaka on a motorbike and was about to cross the Nigerien border."Al-Sahrawi was then targeted by a drone airstrike that killed the ISIS leader and resulted in the captured of ten of his men, French and U.S. officials said. headtopics.com

Aaron J. Jenne/U.S. Air Force/Handout via ReutersA U.S. Army carry team transfers the remains of Army Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright of Lyons, Ga., at Dover Air Force Base in Del., Oct. 5, 2017. Staff Sgt. Wright was one the four U.S. soldiers killed in the attack on US an Nigerien forces in southwest Niger on Oct. 4, 2017.

"This zone is a red one. Almost a stateless area. This is a huge get and could rebalance the power at least for the Malian Liptako," said the French commander, who added that confirming al-Sahrawi's death"took several weeks.""The killing of al-Sahrawi follows a series of tactical successes by the French, who recently killed or captured several senior ISGS [Islamic State in the Greater Sahara] commanders," said Sahel expert Heni Nsaibia of the risk consultancy firm Menastream."It appears that these events and the question of who will succeed al-Sahrawi have created serious tensions within ISGS. We are talking about numerous No. 1- and 2-ranking commanders eliminated in just months. This means that it will be difficult for the group to effectively restructure and reorganize at this point."

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In a statement, Macron paid tribute to France's fallen troops in northwest Africa. Read more: ABC News »

The war on terror should now become a drone/cruise missile/special operations war. We don’t need thousands of soldiers occupying these marginal countries where terrorists hang out. We, and our allies, should make it clear that we will take appropriate action.

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French President claims targeted killing of ISIS chief in SaharaFrench forces have killed Adnan Abou Walid al Sahraoui, leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS), French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Twitter early Thursday. horrible Looks like Al-Quieda played a trick on JoeBiden again.... 🤣 Fuck yeah France! Flexin’ on the global stage.

France calls killing of ISIS leader big victoryFrance says it has killed Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, the leader of the Islamic State group in the Greater Sahara.

French President claims targeted killing of ISIS chief in SaharaFrench forces have killed Adnan Abou Walid al Sahraoui, leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS), French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Twitter early Thursday. horrible Looks like Al-Quieda played a trick on JoeBiden again.... 🤣 Fuck yeah France! Flexin’ on the global stage.

France Says It Has Killed Islamic State Leader Responsible for Deaths of U.S. SoldiersAdnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi led an operation that killed four U.S. servicemen in Niger in 2017 and was the architect of one of the terrorist outfit’s most successful franchises. Master Terrorist france When Biden killed innocent family including kids and recognized them as ISIS, France got the real job done. Disgrace Joe. Can we eat French fries now?